vol-XC : November 05, 2011

Dear Colleagues

Here is another round of reflections for your perusal;

1.  Following the Arab Spring, autumn set in last month in New York with ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, and spread around many cities in North America and the globe during October. The ordinary folks protesting against the excesses of ‘Wall Street’ and its mandarins, were focused on one simple message—the present economic model doesn’t work for the vast majority. The well-dressed hedge fund managers, ofcourse, denounced the movement as having no coherent alternative; and, the authorities were ‘unable’ to find their ‘leader’ with whom to negotiate. This is indeed the new phenomenon around the world—shared by Arab Spring, Senegalese & Indian summer, and now Northern autumn—that people are rejecting established models based on ‘tried and failed’ ideologies and ‘tired and failing’ leaders. So, the process of exploring alternatives through horizontal, spontaneous and iterative dialogues is fundamental basis of this new democracy.

2.  The ‘massacre’ of young students in Oslo this July has left deep scars in this relatively peaceful Norwegian society. Known for its plentiful oil, high human development and innovative forms of work organisations over the past 2-3 decades, ordinary Norwegian citizens are still trying to figure out the genesis of this tragedy. If societies of plenty can not prevent such anger and hatred towards others, imagine how severe it can be in societies of scarcity. With severe economic meltdown and austerity measures hitting the public in Eurozone these days, the anger and hatred (towards different others) may erupt immeasurably!

3.  The recent arrest (and subsequent bail) of Rajat Gupta, a former CEO of one of the world’s largest management consultancy firms–McKinsey — has sent ripples in the global corporate world. Rajat Gupta has also had considerable influence in ‘McKinsisation’ of non-profit sector in the world, a process by which corporate management tools are applied to work on mission-oriented organisations driving social change. His influence has spread to large American Foundations—Ford, Rockefeller, Gates; he has been instrumental in bringing senior McKinsey professionals in a wide range of Indian and global non-profits, including Global Fund for Aids, Malaria & TB, Indian AIDS programme, America India Foundation, Public Health Foundation of India, and many others. If integrity is a value to be pursued by non-profits, you wonder if global management consultancy firms are the best advisors then?

4.  United Kingdom has been formed sometimes through persuasion, and sometimes through intimidation. With discontent and violence spreading through Ireland, Wales, Scotland in the 1980s, there has been devolution of authority and governance in the past couple of decades. Scotland and Wales have regional parliaments; both are doing economically better than England these days. Ireland continues to be divided; northern part still under British control. Come to think of it, British colonial rule has had its longest innings in Ireland—more than 800 years! Similar experiences exist in other parts of the world—devolution of governance is critical for ensuring commitment of citizens.

5.  The attention to ‘civil society’ in the Indian media continues unabated since earlier this year when Anna Hazare launched his anti-corruption movement and found huge spontaneous support from millions of Indians. In order to pick holes in the credibility of the movement and its leadership, all kinds of government agencies are working full throttle. Media is, likewise, busy in broadcasting these investigations and targeting the credibility of the same persons it had projected on the pedestal earlier. Various factions of civil society, and their self-conflated leaders, are happily ‘fishing in such dirty waters’ by obliging sound bites to the media. It is indeed a pity that Indian civil society hasn’t learnt its lessons from the past, when post-emergency Congress regime had instituted an Enquiry Commission headed by Justice Kudal which effectively debilitated many voluntary organisations suspected to have supported the Jaiprakash Narain movement. Citizens of India may, one day, force civil society activists to stand together against forces of corruption and authoritarianism!

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon